NATIONAL NEWS

Texas heat brings the state’s power grid closest it has been to outages since 2021 winter storm

Sep 7, 2023, 12:59 PM

Wind causing power outages in the Puget Sound region.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)...

Wind causing power outages in the Puget Sound region. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

HOUSTON (AP) — Texas’ power grid manager on Thursday again asked residents to cut their electricity use as the state endures another stretch of sizzling summer heat. The request carried fresh urgency, coming the day after the system was pushed to the brink of outages for the first time since a deadly winter blackout in 2021.

The request by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which serves most of the state’s 30 million residents, came a day after low energy reserves prompted the grid operator to issue a level 2 energy emergency alert. Operating reserves fell as demand surged amid the heat, and power from wind and solar energy sources proved insufficient, according to ERCOT.

It was the first time the council entered emergency operations since a deadly 2021 ice storm knocked out power to millions of customers for days and resulted in hundreds of deaths.

The emergency status remained in place for about an hour Wednesday night until grid conditions returned to normal, ERCOT said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

On Thursday, ERCOT asked residents to conserve power from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. CDT as reserves were again expected to be low. Much of Texas was covered by heat advisories on Thursday, with high temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius) in Austin, Amarillo, Dallas and El Paso.

“We request Texas businesses & residents conserve electricity use, if safe to do so,” ERCOT said in a tweet.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has said improvements since 2021 have stabilized the grid. Earlier this year, Texas lawmakers passed bills aimed at luring developers to generate more “on-demand” electricity, but the legislation did not extend to renewable sources.

Many Texans remain skeptical of the grid’s reliability.

In June, just before this summer’s heat settled into Texas, Abbott vetoed a bill to strengthen energy efficiency in new construction, saying it wasn’t as important as cutting property taxes.

Texas is not connected to the rest of the country’s power grid, unlike other U.S. states, leaving few options to pull power from elsewhere amid shortages or failures.

In May, regulators warned that demand may outpace supply on the hottest days.

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Follow Juan A. Lozano on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

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Texas heat brings the state’s power grid closest it has been to outages since 2021 winter storm